Training is its own reward : Tracking

In a small wood belt to the south, bordering a dry creek, a flock of songbirds sing in praise of the coming sunset. Orange and blue are the primary colors, with long, wispy clouds that draw the eye and the heart towards the heavens. Between the trees and the tilled field, just to the north, the tall grass rattles in the light breeze. The concerns of the fescue seem to be more about the weather, the ongoing drought and the approaching winter. Grasses do not make good listeners, and ignore the occasional field mouse that skitters through squeaking of danger. The field is framed on the east by a well paved street where traffic rumbles by. The noise of a small town busy bringing a close to the day. The drivers fail to see the paradise they are passing by. My paradise, may it ever stay that way. The track has been laid and, as I wait for it to age, I talk to my dog.

"Easy boy, easy. Soon." He is not comforted, and I imagine he thinks I will forget what we came here for and just drive away. The same way he believes I might forget to feed him every night. Silly dog. Finally it is time and I climb out of the Montero. The days have been warm and I am in shorts, but now consider adding a sweater. The breeze has turned chill, the temperature falling with the sun. I stop and reach into the front of the car ,digging out a light pullover, buried beneath other "dog paraphernalia", that was left in the vehicle for just such a need. The dog is not happy with this delay and whines his frustration. He rattles his crate as I sort out armholes, barking for me to hurry as I pull the sweater over my head. At last I am dressed. Cruel mistress that I am, I ask for him to "down" before releasing him from his crate. He complies, but the pain is obvious, in his eyes. Torture! I open the crate door and he explodes out, bounding towards the field to find "his track".

"Wait! Here!", I shout, "You need a collar and a leash!". Once again, I have been transformed into a monster, but he is a good boy and returns, despite my changed appearance. Eighty pounds of excited Dobermann tap dances around me. The collar seems large for such a pointy nose, it SHOULD fit easily over his head, it would if he could just be still. "Rip, sit. Nooo, sit! Good boy. Aargh! Sit! Stay! Finally!" His collar is in place and line attached. The ground is very dry so I force him to drink, using a squirt bottle stuck in the side of his mouth. I wipe some over his nose and now we are ready to track. True to my cruel monster nature, I make him heel toward the starting flag and down him a few yards away.

This is part of our routine and he recognizes it. It is very hard to go from light speed to stop. Slowly that energy that was need and motion is channeled into NOSE. His head bobs around for a bit like a dashboard doll, then stops. His focus is almost tangible. I ask him to sit, he does, we heel loosely towards the flag. Sit. I look down at him, he looks down at the ground. Gently, softly, I speak the magic word. "Such", I say, and the world goes away. Sometime later it returns.

The earth resumes its rotation and clocks again begin keeping time. Time, we still have time for our walk. A good dog deserves a good walk. We head out through the fescue and as my big "Dober Guy" picks up speed and stretches his legs, I think to myself, this is a good day. This is my description of the perfect tracking day, and no, they aren't all perfect. Sometimes it is wet. Sometimes it is cold. Occasionally both.

Often in winter I have to force myself to lay that track. But its worth it, it's always worth it. Once the world goes away and the universe narrows to a dog, a line and a handler.

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